School’s out bell about to ring for hunter ed

With bruin hunters already afield and more options coming the first of September for would-be first-time Washington hunters it can be hard this late in the year to find an old-school three- or four-day sit-down hunter education class with seats still open.

For first-time hunters regardless of age opting for the cyber version of this obligatory hunting pre-requisite, it’s almost as hard to find a mandatory field skills evaluation session. That’s the second certification step required of those who take the online hunter ed course. In it they must demonstrate actual firearms handle skills.

Early age or youth firearms safety and hunting education training has been a mandatory part of the hunting experience since the early 1950s. Adults entering the hunting scene did not have to take and pass the proficiency class.

In the 1990s the legal pre-requisites for obtaining a Washington hunting license were changed by the Legislature. Since then, anyone, regardless of age, born after Jan. 1, 1972, must present proof of having taken and successfully passing a certified hunter education course in order to get their first Washington hunting license .

Over-the-counter hunting license dealers now are barred from issuing a license to any first-timer without laying eyes on a hunter education certificate whether it’s a card or some other official document from Washington or another state.

Washington’s current HE system offers four training categories: basic classroom hunter education, basic online hunter education, trapper classroom education and bowhunter classroom or online education, though only the first three are honored (and required) in the Evergreen State for first-time licensee purchases.

In the Internet-based hunter ed system there are two components, an online self-directed learning course and the field practicum, both of which must be successfully navigated to earn the proof of accomplishment.

Though not required in Washington, completion of an archery-focused hunter training course often is a requisite for bowhunting permits in other states. Washington’s system through an agreement with the Washington State Archery Association, Washington State Bowhunters and Traditional Bowhunters of Washington, includes these organized training offerings so citizens can get certification here that’s valid and required in other states they intend hunt without having to travel great distances.


For many hunting households in need of the hunter ed certificate, the burning question at this moment is how and where can the training and testing be had at this late date.

A quick scan of WDFW’s statewide registry of formally scheduled traditional classroom offerings finds most relatively close to Bellingham already filled. Many do have waiting lists though.

There are currently no classroom style offerings in Whatcom or Skagit counties. As of Saturday, Aug. 22, the closest of these old-school trainings with seats available starts Monday, Aug. 31 in Coupeville on Whidbey Island. There’s also a Saturday-Sunday class at Marysville Rifle Club in Lakewood set to start Oct. 3.

The list of field skills evaluations for the online course has one scheduled practicum in Whatcom County slated for Tuesday, Sept. 8, at Custer Sportsmen’s Club (a few seats available), a second close option is at the Skagit Shooting Range near Burlington Saturday, Sept. 19.

With reservations required, attendees must register for these classes or sessions on WDFW’s Web site and students or their parent/guardian must complete up to three needed forms.

▪ Basic hunter ed, the classroom: These classes are taught by certified volunteer instructors in three to four sessions over about 16 hours of total class time. Many held on shooting ranges include a firearms practice/shooting time element. The test is taken at the end and if passed, a certificate card will be issued.

There’s no lower age cut-off for participants however, students under the age of 12 may have to have a parent or guardian’s written permission to take the class.

There may be more courses yet to be set up and registered with WDFW that could still be offered in this area. It’ll be necessary to regularly check for them on WDFW’s Website.

As mentioned, registration for any class may only be done online at WDFW’s Web-portal once the offering is formally posted. Would-be participants may not enroll and reserve a seat directly with the individual or group sponsoring or offering it.

▪ Basic hunter ed, over the Internet: The online basic hunter ed offering is the most readily available, but be aware that there is a two-part process leading to certification.

Part one is Internet-based and self-directed, meaning it can be accomplished as quickly or slowly as the student wishes. There is a fee payable for this mode when you successfully pass the exam, but before you get the confirmation.

Part two of this process is the field practicum and requires finding and enrolling in a one-day (one- to six-hour) obligatory face-to-face session with an instructor/evaluator that’s usually done on a shooting range. It has a written test plus a section in which the student must demonstrate safe, effective handling of a firearm.

Bowhunter trainings (that other states require, but not here in Washington) are generally scheduled for late winter, spring and early summer months. There are none on the list at this time. There is a trapper training class slated for September in King County.


▪ Out-of-state HE certificates: Washington accepts valid hunter education completion certificates issued by all other states. Originals or validated duplicates must be shown to license dealers at time of purchase.

▪ Duplicate certificates: Misplaced Washington hunter education completion documents that may be needed to hunt in another state can be re-issued. WDFW’s fee is $8. Allow a minimum of two weeks for mail-in request processing in Olympia. An application form, available from WDFW, must be completed and sent in with the fee payment. It might be possible to get a same-day temporary certificate through a WDFW regional office, the closest to Bellingham is the Mill Creek Region 4 headquarters in Snohomish County. Call 425-775-1311.

▪ Active duty military partial HE waivers: Persons currently on active duty military service in Washington, if they don’t have an HE course certificate from elsewhere, must take the course here. If they choose the online course option, they can get a waiver or exemption from having to attend and pass the field evaluation. A short application form plus proof of military service — letter from a unit commander — must be sent in.

▪ One-time, one-year deferral: The 2007 Legislature authorized a formal one-time, one-year postponement of the necessity to fulfill the Washington hunter education requirement. During this period, to hunt the deferral holder must at all times when hunting be in the close (visual and voice range) company of a legally licensed (for the past three years) Washington adult hunter. This dispensation costs $20 and, along with the purchase of the initial hunting license, must be transacted through the WDFW Olympia Headquarters Licensing Office. An application form is available online and must be accompanied by photo documentation of the applicant’s identity as well as information positively identifying the mentor hunter.

The deferral route may be taken only once and to get a follow-up Washington hunting license in the future, the hunter education course requirement must be fulfilled.

Doug Huddle, the Bellingham Herald’s outdoors correspondent, since 1983, has written a weekly fishing and hunting column that appears Sundays. Contact him through the Herald Sports Department.

This week’s Skagit hatchery and flow info:

FACILITY (Stock/Species)

Baker Lake Hatchery (Baker sockeye): 28,439 sockeye trapped & transferred (19,904 to Baker Lake, as of Aug. 22; 6,241 to hatchery). Same week total in 2014 – 6,284 adult sockeye to hatchery.

LAKE LEVEL – Upper Baker Reservoir

Recent: As of Saturday, Aug. 22, the reservoir surface was at 722.01 feet above sea level, up about a foot with fluctuations in the past five days .

Forecast: No prediction for this gauge. Full pool is 727.77 feet above sea level.


Here are some Web portals for hunter education information:

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Hunter Education: wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/huntered/

Basic Hunter Ed Class Program: wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/huntered/classes/basic.php

Bowhunting Ed Class: wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/huntered/classes/bowhunting.php

On-line Hunter Ed Course: www.hunter-ed.com/washington/index.html

Hunter Ed Certificate Copies: wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/huntered/duplicate_card.html

Hunter ED military exemption: wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/huntered/files/online_military_exemption_form_4-23-14.pdf

Washington Hunter Ed one-year deferral: wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/huntered/he_deferral.html

Hunting related firearm transfers under Initiative 594 (select pdf file(s)): wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/huntered/index.html.